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IoT as simple as Do Re Mi A micro-figuration approach to the social context of IoT skills and digital inequalities (dissertation)

As the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming the next frontier for the digital divide, understanding how IoT related skills develop, acquired, and applied in a social context is crucial in determining the benefits and exploitations of IoT use. Typical for IoT use is that otherwise everyday activities involve more parties, internet connections and services, and it generates large amounts of data. By developing a micro-approach to figurational research we examine how the IoT is socially embedded in a network of interdependencies and power balances between different parties and how this affects IoT skills.

We follow 30 household for 15 months using qualitative interviews, house tours, a novel diary study using an app focused on intersubjective metaphorical parameters, and a performance task where participants extracted their own IoT log-entry data we then used to illustrate structural practices. During this 15-month study we examine how people start using IoT differently and how they position themselves in a flexible lattice-work of interdependencies based on household members, main IoT users, IoT devices, and manufacturers. To examine the relations between these interdependencies, we adjust operational skills and collaboration skills from a digital skills framework to IoT and construct choreographic skills to address the socio-materiality of the IoT. We sensitized our findings to differences in educational levels as an indicator for cognitive abilities and are able to conceptually relate our findings to digital inequalities perpetuated by education. We also find perspectives that are conceptually relatable to cultural values as alternative repertoires of action.

Full dissertation of Alex van der Zeeuw available here.